BALTIMORE -- A rested bullpen and a gutsy performance by starter Jeremy Guthrie couldn't save the Orioles from defeat on Sunday afternoon.
Baltimore, fresh off splitting Saturday's doubleheader, got everything it could have asked out of Guthrie, who was hospitalized with pneumonia last week. But the Rangers, the hottest offense in the American League entering the weekend set, used a pair of homers -- including a two-run shot off reliever Jim Johnson -- to take a series-clinching 3-0 win at Camden Yards.
"It was a battle the whole the entire time," Guthrie said of his six innings on the mound. "Just fighting and trying to make better pitches and [I] didn't always do that. I was fortunate on a lot of the outs they didn't hit them a lot further than they did."
Working with lower velocity and varying his pitches to compensate, Guthrie gave an admirable performance in his second start this season. The O's Opening Day starter, Guthrie didn't allow a hit until the third inning and the Rangers' lone run off him came courtesy of Adrian Beltre's leadoff homer in the fourth.
"He threw great," said right fielder Nick Markakis, whose third-inning web gem robbed Josh Hamilton of an extra-base hit and two RBIs. "You can't ask for anything more from [Guthrie]."
Guthrie allowed a pair of singles to start the sixth but retired Beltre and Nelson Cruz on popups and fielded Mitch Moreland's sharply hit grounder back to the mound. That would prove to be the final frame of his 84-pitch outing, as Guthrie started to fatigue. His performance wasn't lost on his teammates or manager Buck Showalter, who called it gutty.
"I remember talking to every great pitcher I've had the great fortune of having," Showalter said. "They'll tell you out of 30 some odd starts, they'll go out there maybe five times all year and feel like they're carrying all of their bullets. And I think Jeremy was challenged even more in that today. This guy spent a couple nights in the hospital. It's a grind sport. ... It's not for the weak of heart."
Sunday's loss drops the Orioles to 6-3 on the season and 40-26 since Showalter took over in August. It also caps the six-game homestand against the Tigers and Rangers at 3-3, with a big series against the New York Yankees starting on Tuesday.
"Overall, the first week [and a half] we did pretty damn good," Markakis said of the Orioles' early record.
There are still issues, however, namely the offense, which was held in check Sunday by Rangers starter Derek Holland, who scattered five two-hits.
"I can speak for myself and Brian [Roberts] at the top of the order, I think we can do a little better job of getting on base," Markakis said. "But we've been facing some tough pitching. Other than that, I think we're pretty pleased with our record right now considering the way we're swinging the bats."
The O's twice put runners on with two outs for Mark Reynolds, but the third baseman -- who entered Sunday 5-for-7 with runners in scoring position -- couldn't capitalize. Holland got Reynolds to strike out in the first inning and ground out in the third to keep the O's off the board.
The Orioles squandered another opportunity to score in the fifth. Markakis delivered a two-out single, and Derrek Lee laced a double down the left-field line which Hamilton relayed to cutoff man Andres Blanco, whose throw to the plate bounced and skipped away. A hustling Markakis, who rounded the third-base bag as Hamilton was fielding, ran through the stop sign from third-base coach John Russell, only to hesitate, halt and retreat to the bag.
"To be honest with you, I didn't even pick up the third-base coach because I figured he'd be sending me," Markakis said. "But the ball kind of just kicked right back to him, he got the ball in quick and I picked up on that the last second, and I felt like I was in a situation [where] if I had time to stop, I could get back.
"Sometimes, you've just got to trust your instincts and go. But we're still sitting in a good situation, men on second and third with the guy that we want up at the plate."
That was Vladimir Guerrero, who singled and doubled in his first two at-bats. But the O's designated hitter, facing his former team for the first time since signing with Baltimore during the offseason, popped up to shallow right field to end the inning.
"I didn't want to give him anything good to hit," Holland said of Guerrero. "He's a great hitter, you have to make him hit your pitch. It was a fastball down and in."
"I like the idea of Vlady hitting there," Showalter said of the play. "[Markakis] would have been out with a good throw. If we all knew where the throw was going to end up on the ensuing throw, it would be different, but we don't. He's out with a pretty easy throw. He's out by a large margin. We had the right people up in some situations."
Those situations included the eighth inning. After Holland exited the game and Darren Oliver threw a scoreless frame, the Orioles worked a pair of two-out walks off reliever Darren O'Day. Rangers manager Ron Washington promptly called on closer Neftali Feliz for a four-out save. Showalter countered with pinch-hitter Luke Scott, who worked the count full before sending a pitch to deep center field, which Julio Borbon caught at the warning track.
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.